The COVID-19 pandemic has been a crisis for capitalism but the weight of that crisis has fallen squarely on the shoulders of working women. While many have speculated about why 4.4 million workers quit their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic, it is abundantly clear that this is not the romantic notion of a “great resignation” due to job dissatisfaction but rather the forceful push of women into the home to care for their children.
Women left the workforce at twice the rate of men in 2020 and have left the healthcare, hospitality, retail, and education sectors struggling to fill vacancies typically filled by women.
Educators across the country are experiencing high levels of stress caring for children during the pandemic. Constantly changing quarantine times, full and partial classroom closures, changing mask mandates, and lack of adequate testing make the stresses of teaching that much greater. For early childhood educators that do not have the protections of large school districts, the burden is even greater. Young children do not qualify for vaccination and have much longer quarantine times. Younger children also require the most care, which is essential to working families. Daycare and preschool teachers often make minimum wage but childcare costs are exorbitant for families that require it.
Despite the essential nature of childcare, there is little to no government assistance to help families secure accessible and affordable childcare. There are no protections for working families that have to quarantine with children when a classroom closes or a child gets sick. There is no protection ensuring childcare workers’ safety or job security during a time when it is more essential than ever. Educators are left without adequate personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and access to testing.
January 2022 marked the loss of the monthly child tax credit payments that began in July 2021 to more than 36 million families. Inflation and supply chain issues are causing costs to rise and this small pittance helped support families pay for food, prescriptions, doctor’s visits, car repairs, and more.
Childcare, health insurance, prescriptions, education, rent and mortgage, and nutritious food should all be guaranteed rights. Instead, the smallest assistance is ripped out from under families leaving the most vulnerable workers to pay the price. All of this is done in the name of profits. Instead of allocating $768 billion to the military, that money must be used to support working people.
The childcare crisis is preventable with adequate funding and governmental support. Anyone that wants to work should be able to without fearing for the health and safety of their children. Workers should have job protections that allow them to care for sick or quarantining children. Families should have access to free and accessible childcare in their neighborhood. A better world for working families is possible. We just have to organize to make it.